Seabird, Rocks into Rivers
By Alyce Gilligan
December 15, 2009
Seabird is a band perched precariously at the point where they could become the next big thing—“big thing” here meaning slightly religious rock with just enough punch to be successful in a variety of audiences, while monopolizing none. It’s a pretty good place to be. The band started in 2004, with brothers Aaron and Ryan Morgan. The Cincinnati duo then signed with Credential Recordings and was joined by Preston Lane on drums and Brandon Weaver on bass. Their plunky piano tunes are an effortless blend of genres, though decidedly mainstream.
Seabird is perhaps better known on television than radio, their songs having been regularly featured on primetime shows such as Pushing Daisies, Grey’s Anatomy and Numb3rs. Their respectable roster of tour mates includes names like NeedToBreathe, House of Heroes, Fiction Family and David Crowder* Band. For their sophomore album, Rocks Into Rivers, the boys enlisted the help of producers Paul Moak (who has worked with artists like Mat Kearney) and Matt Hales (better known as Aqualung, and no stranger to the ever growing popularity of piano pop/rock.) The result is a powerful album that may be exactly what Seabird needs to take flight.
The album’s first song and single, “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful” (download the song for free here), immediately acquaints you with the band’s expansive sound and mastery of dynamics. Lead singer, pianist, and primary songwriter Aaron Morgan showcases his full-bodied tone and range, unafraid to slip into a soulful shriek here and there. Seabird’s piano man is also quite the family man, his lyrics reflecting commitment to wife, children, faith and the betterment of oneself. “The Good King” was written for his daughter, though the spiritual parallels are obvious. It plays like an amped-up lullaby, swelling into a bridge that is perhaps the best moment on the album, complete with bells, as Morgan cries, When I had no choice, he gave me a voice, now I’m singing. He even writes about the beauty of his wife during pregnancy on “Baby I’m In Love,” crooning, Two beats from one body, my heart sings along. It’s sickeningly sweet, but Seabird’s sound is too bright and bouncy to be dismissed. They even seem to correct themselves when things get too sugary on “The Sound of You and I,” cutting the song just shy of two minutes.
Seabird isn’t all sunshine, but bops their way through issues like divorce, death and loss of faith, as if to say, “Keep your chin up.” “This Ain’t Home” is a fervent reminder of our temporary citizenship here on earth that somehow finds the appropriate balance of solemnity and hopefulness, rising to an ivory-tickling, joyous conclusion. “Believe Me” and “Trust” are stirring consolations to a weary loved one, full of peppy promises of enduring loyalty. Throughout Rocks Into Rivers, there is this sense of nobility, responsibility, and optimism as buoyant as the melodies themselves.
The album concludes with a bang, the last three tracks straying from the more upbeat affairs and allowing the other Morgan to shine on electric guitar. “This Road” is an urgent and charged appeal for a fading friendship (But if you promise to stay close, we can take this, we can shake this.) The syncopated “Finally Done Right” is Seabird’s most original contribution, an intriguing ode to Michael Jackson that laments, We made you a king before they made you a monster, If music was your queen, I pray you’ve not forgot her. It’s moments like these that Seabird gets the best of you. You’re about to accuse them of trying too hard and then realize you’re already drumming on your knee … The title track wraps things up nicely, a darker melody riddled with allusions like, I’ll make you shiver when I turn rocks into rivers like Moses, And if we lose our way, I’ll pray that God just shows us.
Seabird isn’t necessarily anything new. Bands like One Republic and Castledoor, liberated boybanders who became serious musicians, have certainly already charted the territory through which Seabird is now soaring. But if their goal is, as Morgan once said, “to make our music as reliable as a good friend”, they’ve already got our back. Seabird is consistent, creative, and downright pleasant. While they may not be first on the scene, they are certainly the next to watch.